Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year's Eve!

Happy New Year's Eve! January is going to be an epic month for seven reasons. 

1. The  fourth National Ambassador for Young People's Literature will be announced on January 2. w00t! w00t! w00t! 

2. I'm premiering the book trailer for Elizabeth Rose Stanton's Henny on January 7. 

 3. The Sharp-Schu Book Club meets on January 15. 

4. The One and Only Ivan turns two on January 17. 

5. The Newbery committee meets January 24-26.

6. The ALA Youth Media Awards press conference is on January 27. After the press conference, I will 

              a. celebrate. 

              b. take a deep breath. 
              c. take off my Newbery hat. 
              d. start reading books published in 2014. 

7. These books  are sent out into the world on January 28. 

Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder

Lunch Lady and the Schoolwide Scuffle by Jarrett J. Krosoczka 

Marty McGuire Has Too Many Pets! by Kate Messner and Brian Floca 


What are you most looking forward to in January? 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Most Viewed Posts of 2013

Travis Jonker is counting down his top blog posts of 2013. His countdown inspired me to take a look at my five most popular blog posts published during 2013. 



Thanks for taking the time to read my blog posts and for sharing them with your students and friends. You're (to quote Tina Turner) "simply the best." :)

Friday, December 27, 2013

Author-illustrator Annette Simon

Happy Friday, everyone! I hope this blog entry finds you having a magnificent winter break. As you know, every Friday a children's literature advocate visits Watch. Connect. Read. to finish my sentences. This week's special guest is author-illustrator Annette Simon. She finished most of my sentences by creating brilliant spine poems. I am excited to share them with my students during National Poetry Month. 

I wrote the words in red, and Annette wrote the words in black (plus took the photographs). Thank you, Annette! 

Robot and Robot are back...

Affirmative. The mechanical friends from

return in February in one loud read-aloud:


The book trailer for Robot Zombie Frankenstein!...

is here. 

The book trailer for

is not, please stay tuned. Meantime, download a free ROBOT ZOMBIE FRANKENSTEIN! fun kit here, and/or let me continue to distract you with some book-spine sentence-endings. Okay, Mr. Schu?

Picture books are...


Reading is for...







Especially, & me.

The best thing about...

...reading? Sometimes, it's solving mysteries, like: 





But it's also sniffing out facts, such as:



It's even glimpsing the future with looks to the past:

But probably the best thing about reading is getting to

Anywhere, everywhere, every when.

Books are...



...a book can be...

School libraries are...


No doubt, where to find that cool friend.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me...

So I could have said: That's easy.


But you already knew that. Right?

p.s. I get to spend a lot of time with books, including as a bookseller at a lovely indie in Neptune Beach, Florida (where I took most of these photos). One day there last year, I talked with a woman visiting from Nashville, Ms. Melonnie Klein. Turns out, Ms. Klein teaches fifth grade at Christ Presbyterian Academy, and she so enjoyed a book I'd recommended, May B. by Caroline Starr Rose, that she convinced her principal to purchase copies for all the kids in her class. These students then wrote poems and life lessons, drawing from the book, and Ms. Klein sent this photo to our local newspaper. 

 Of course, I had to share it with Caroline Starr Rose (via social media, I don't know her personally). Ms. Rose, then, full-circle, connected with Ms. Klein and her class. See? A book + some sharing = magic. And readers get to practice it, every day.

p.p.s. Mr. Schu, thanks again!

I am giving away one copy of Robot Burp Head Smartypants! 

Rules for the Giveaway 

1. It will run from 12/27 to 11:59. p.m. on 12/29. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Anderson's Children's Literature Breakfast

Do you live in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan (I'm looking at Travis, Colby, Niki, Kurt, and Margie), or Wisconsin? If yes, please consider attending Anderson's Bookshop's 12th Annual Children's Literature Breakfast. It is always a memorable morning. 


Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver 

Jon Muth 

Aaron Reynolds 

Laurie Keller 

Maggie Steifvater 



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Video of the Week: Comics for the Holidays

Are you looking for some last-minute gift ideas? Dave Roman recommends buying comics for all your friends and family members. Take a look at Dave's recommendations...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Author-illustrator Bill Thomson

Author-illustrator Bill Thomson created my favorite picture book of 2010, Chalk. I'm thrilled and honored he dropped by Watch. Connect. Read. to finish my sentences about his latest wordless picture book, Fossil. I wrote the words in red, and he wrote the words in black. Thank you, Bill! 

FOSSIL tells the story of a boy and his dog and their discovery of magical fossils in a wordless picture book that blends imagination with science. While hiking, the pair accidentally discovers fossils that magically come to life. While science serves as the catalyst for a fantastical adventure, the story reveals the love, caring, and trust of the two companions.

FOSSIL’s illustrations are painted very realistically with acrylic paint and colored pencils. Because realism is one of my artistic strengths, my books present imaginary ideas and attempt to portray them as completely believable. My hope is that children will forget they are looking at a book and become totally immersed in my story. To engage interest, I also try to depict common settings and activities that children can relate to. By showing things that children know, the illustrations establish a connection before transitioning them into the world of imagination.

Wordless books offer a unique creative reading experience that requires “reader” participation. Informed by their life experiences, young readers observe and interpret the illustrations to create their own stories. These narratives have the flexibility to change with every reading. The stories can be told as a descriptive account or from the point of view of different characters. For example, FOSSIL can be read as a description of the illustrations, or told from the viewpoint of either the boy or the dog. Or for even more challenging narrative possibilities, the story can be told from the perspective of secondary characters like the dragonfly, pteranodon, or fossils themselves. Multiple readers can also take turns adding narration, voices, or sound effects to each page. Wordless books reflect the creativity and imagination of the readers who translate their stories.

I hope that children will enjoy FOSSIL, and that both creative teachers and engaged parents will find it to be a useful vehicle for discussion and teaching. FOSSIL is the second installment of a wordless trilogy that applies imagination to different elementary school subjects. The first chapter, CHALK, explored art, and this new book uses science as the subject of a second visual adventure. Whether used as a book for beginning or reluctant readers, as a writing prompt for older children, or as a launching point for discussions, the ways wordless books can be used is almost limitless. They can serve as a vehicle for honing inference and prediction skills, investigating story structure, or exploring artistic attributes. They can even be the basis for creative activities, like making homemade fossils to better understand how fossils were formed.

School libraries are magical places. Like enchanted doorways, they offer the opportunity to visit exciting new places, to learn interesting new things, and to get to know fascinating new people. But best of all, school libraries possess transformative powers- - the more time that you spend in them, the wiser you get! 

Reading is your gift to yourself. Whether for work or play, reading builds your knowledge, stimulates your curiosity, develops your creativity, improves your writing, and enhances your thinking. Reading is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

Picture books are one of the greatest joys in my life. God gave me a talent, and I cherish the chance to touch the lives of children in some small way through my books and artwork. I feel extremely blessed to have this opportunity.

Mr. Schu, you should have asked me about... what my thoughts were in creating FOSSIL. Because CHALK was relatively successful, I wanted to follow it with a companion book that would work as part of a trilogy while standing on it’s own. The butterfly that appears at the beginning of FOSSIL links the two books. Applying imagination to a new school subject, I hoped to retain the best qualities of CHALK, but also challenge myself to include more possibilities for story telling. That way, the reader can choose what aspects are significant in constructing their story. 

For example, FOSSIL may be read simply as an adventure about magical rocks that come to life. On a more subtle level, FOSSIL may also be read as a love story about a boy and his dog. I was interested in showcasing the qualities of love (protecting, trusting, hoping, and enduring), as the boy overcame his own fear to help his friend. Unlike CHALK, the boy actually chases the thing he fears, motivated by love. The dragonfly becomes the boy’s guide and helper, offering yet an even more complex story possibility of both good and evil emerging from the fossils. The dragonfly leads the boy to expose the pteranodon and then aids him in defeating it. Or finally, the entire adventure could have been an unconscious dream resulting from the fall the boy took at the beginning of the story. Whatever children might see in my paintings, I hope they enjoy FOSSIL and have fun creating their own stories!

Thanks for offering me the chance to complete your sentences and provide you with some insight to FOSSIL, Mr. Schu!

I am giving away one copy of Fossil

Rules for the Giveaway

1. It will run from 12/20 to 11:59 p.m. on 12/22. 

2. You must be at least 13. 

3. Please pay it forward. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Top 20 Most Circulated Books K-5 | 2013 (Part 2 of 2)

I cannot believe 2013 is coming to an end. It was a busy and rewarding year in my school library. We circulated 34,365 items. Wow! Let's take a look at the top circulated books of 2013 (January 1, 2013 - December 17, 2013).

Click here for Part 1

 Chickenhare by Chris Grine

Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Amulet Book Four: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi 

Sidekicks by Dan Santat 

Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman and Dan Yaccarino

Squish: Captain Disaster by Jennifer and Matthew Holm 

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

Smile by Raina Telgemeier 

Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco by Jarrett J. Krosoczka 

Extreme Babymouse by Jennifer and Matthew Holm